The only way dye is cast is with Abir, Naturally

The only way dye is cast is with Abir, Naturally

The only way dye is cast is with Abir, Naturally

I do not want to fit in the pre-defined boxes as labels call for the lack of innovation. I want to re-invent myself at every stage. I am a free spirited individual and an artiste who is not bound by any particular format except that yes, whatever I create will be in natural dyes.” 

These are words of an Ahmedabad-based artiste Ruby Jagrut. And reinvent she has, throughout her life. A graduate in arts with psychology as her major, she completed her master’s in mass media communication from a local college.  

However, after her education she always felt restless and was looking for an opportunity to ask and express. And she found solace in the words of Leo Tolstoy, who in his book wrote, “Art is to evoke in oneself a feeling one has once experienced, and having evoked it in oneself, then, by means of movements, lines, colours, sounds, or forms expressed in words, so to transmit that feeling that others may experience the same feeling.” 

And Ruby began to vent her emotions by going back to her childhood passion of painting, doodling and sketching. It is this passion  that landed her at Kanoria Centre For Arts (1994), where she came across a fascinating workshop on natural dyes being conducted by famous artist Toofan Rafai. “It is this workshop that drew me towards natural dyes. Then the journey was on and my love affair with natural dyes began only to captivate me further,” she says. 

In India, natural dyes have been used in art forms since primitive ages. BhimBhetka rock shelters of Madhya Pradesh are the living testimony of natural dye art form that has survived 30,000 summers. Then there is Kalamkari from South India, Madhubani from Bihar, Patta Chitra from Odisha, Mata Ni Pachedi from Ahmedabad, Pichwai from Rajasthan and quite a few others from tribal belts of Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand.

“I am just continuing that tradition of   natural dyes in my art form. I feel, natural dyes are my calling. I have always been fascinated how a natural ingredient can give beautiful hues of colour when mixed with water and allowed to dry. Each plant, flower, grain, spices – in fact the bounty of nature gives me the opportunity to explore new colours every  time. It gave my paintings a unique characteristic as colours were always muted and natural,” says Ruby. 

A glance at her work tells you that it is nothing but a reflection of the emotions that perhaps she feels on every day basis and what affects her most at that point and time– it could be an amalgamation of thoughts that evoke either joy or dilemma or distress, any emotion that touches her. All natural emotions expressed using only natural colours, without any artificial involvement.

An involvement that has seen Ruby immerse herself completely in initiatives that explore sustainable ways to promote the “Natural Dye” art in the country. Today, she conducts workshops on natural dyes in India and  abroad for various groups of people be it weavers, textile designers, artists and students.  

  The inspiration came from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation , which had organised an“International Symposium/Workshop on Natural Dyes” in association with the Crafts Council of India in Hyderabad in November 2006, which was attended by some 700 participants from 60 countries, including traditional dyers/craftspeople, scientists, textile artists, professionals from different branches of industry and government representatives. 

 “We need such initiatives on sustainable basis to promote natural dye art in the country. Currently, most of  natural dye art is done on textile, rarely on canvas. Since I have worked only in natural dyes on canvas, I want to promote this art form and pass it on to the future generation of artists,” she says.  

To promote her initiative,  she began by setting up a not-for-profit charitable trust ‘Abir’ with an aim to foster the growth of art scenario in the state and empower budding artists from across the country in their pursuit of art and aesthetics.

Abir, which literally means colours, is a canvas for artists and art connoisseurs in India, to come together and celebrate colours. Through Abir, Ruby seeks to traverse across the nook and corner of the globe to spot sincere talent, mentor them, help showcase their work by creating platforms on both virtual and real expositions. 

“While practising art, I have witnessed that not many artists get a chance to showcase their work in galleries as these galleries only select the work of eminent artists. Maybe it’s the way business functions, but for me, it was important to create a platform that could provide access to new and old artists from across the country to come forward and showcase their art work in front of the art connoisseurs of the city,” she says. 

As part of her initiative, Ruby is now working overtime to make Abir’s pan-Indian maiden exhibition – First Take – a success. To be held in October this year, so far she has received entries from different parts of the country, including Kolkata, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Karnal, Bhopal, Vadodara and Mumbai. In fact, some entries have come from Dubai, Dhaka and London. 

The sole aim-- to provide platform and showcase the artwork of the gen next.  To Ruby, this is her way of giving back to the art community.  “I look forward to the times when people across the country will unite through art and culture,” a tall order perhaps but comes naturally to some.

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